Minnesota 4-week pause: Where is the help for businesses and employees?

The state of Minnesota released this graphic Wednesday to show what businesses and activities will be dialed back as COVID-19 cases surge statewide. (Office of the Governor of Minnesota)

A new four-week shutdown of Minnesota businesses that will include bars, restaurants and gyms will likely require economic aid to those industries, lawmakers and business owners say.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the new four-week restrictions Wednesday night. 

No specific aid packages have been announced as of Wednesday afternoon. In a press conference after the announcement Wednesday, the Governor blamed the federal response to the virus for helping small businesses and said the legislature, not the executive branch is responsible for appropriations. 

He said his office would "settle for a scaled-down" stimulus package that "target small employers and workers." 

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove added that money is available for relief, but that the state would have to borrow from the federal government at this point. "We need Washington to act," he said. 

In a release, Walz said the state is at a "breaking point," as hospital beds fill up and case numbers spike across the state. 

"While these actions mean incredible hardship for many, they are the fastest way to recover our economy, keep our kids in school, and get back to the activities we love," Walz said. 

Area bars and restaurants told FOX 9 Wednesday that the shutdown will have to be paired with state financial assistance if the industry is going to survive.

The owner of Jimmy’s Restaurant predicted the newest shutdown could have existential impacts for a large chunk of the industry in Minnesota.

“There’s going to be a major, major economic impact when it has to do with bars and restaurants unless there is some type of package that comes through,” he said. “I hate to say it, you might see 50-75 percent of restaurants cease existing if something isn’t done.”

Hennepin County offers support

Tuesday, Hennepin County’s Board of Commissioners allocated $8 million in economic support to local restaurants, bars and food service establishments.

To be dispersed in $15,000 grants, businesses that are locally owned and operated, have a physical presence in Hennepin County, have 100 or fewer employees or have $6 million in annual revenues or less are eligible for the funding.

The county says it has distributed more than $22 million in Small Business Relief grants in response to the pandemic since June.

Lawmakers call for support

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, released a statement Wednesday calling for the state to urgently give help to the affected businesses. Baker is a former restaurant owner.

"Without quick action, we could lose hundreds or thousands of the Main Street businesses that are fixtures in our communities, and provide employment for thousands of Minnesotans," Rep. Baker said.

He said the restrictions are “severe” but are important to address the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.

Baker proposed transferring $22 million in CARES Act funding into a targeted relief program right away. He said that could be achieved during the next special session.  

He also called for bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries to be allowed to sell to-go alcohol, a delay of sales tax payments and a loan repayment deferment.

U.S. Representatives Pete Stauber, Jim Hagedorn and Tom Emmer sent a letter to the Governor asking him to distribute the unallocated federal funds to businesses affected by the Governor's new restrictions.